South African sailor on P.E.I. prepares for race around the world

·2 min read
Neuschäfer says she’s preparing for worst-case scenarios as she gets ready for the race.   (Brian Higgins/CBC - image credit)
Neuschäfer says she’s preparing for worst-case scenarios as she gets ready for the race. (Brian Higgins/CBC - image credit)

A sailor originally from South Africa is preparing for a race around the world, and her training is happening right here on P.E.I.

The competition is called the Golden Globe Race 2022, and it attracts the world's top sailors.

Kirsten Neuschäfer will be alone at sea for seven to nine months, never touching land. Adding to the challenge, GPS and cellphones aren't allowed.

Sailors will rely on traditional navigational tools, like charts and a sextant, to find their way.

Brian Higgins/CBC
Brian Higgins/CBC

Neuschäfer said she's preparing for worst-case scenarios as she gets ready for the race.

"It is really important because if you're taking a boat of this size down into the southern ocean, there really is a good chance of getting capsized. And what happens in a capsize, the boat does a 360 and it comes back upright again but it usually loses its mast," she said.

'Lotta different challenges'

That's why this week, Neuschäfer sailed under a makeshift mast, using two poles and a pair of sails.

Local carpenter and mechanic, Eddie Arsenault, customized the hardware to create the potentially life-saving setup.

Brian Higgins/CBC
Brian Higgins/CBC

"Lotta different challenges. Not stuff that you run across every day — so you've got to be creative and think about any little detail that could pop up during the race," Arsenault said.

Work on the boat started months ago. Arsenault's heavy duty hardware is being put to the test.

But he's not the only Islander helping out.

Brian Higgins/CBC
Brian Higgins/CBC

At her dock in French River, local fishermen have lent a hand by taking depth soundings to make sure the harbour is deep enough for the boat to get in and out for sea trials.

As Neuschäfer sails around the world, reminders of P.E.I. will be with her. Hardware, craftsmanship and even some memorabilia from her time here.

Brian Higgins/CBC
Brian Higgins/CBC

Supporters gave her a framed photo of the Confederation Bridge, and she has P.E.I. coins under the mast footing for good luck — something she might need.

Last Golden Globe Race, only five of 18 ships made it to the finish line.

"It's really like the pinnacle of what I could achieve in terms of sailing — and the sport of it, and the adventure … that's really what drives me in life, so it's kind of really my cup of tea,"

The big race starts in France next September.

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